John looked at the older Holmes, unable to verbalize what was going through his mind. Just one word slipped off his lips, "Fuck!"
"Swearing doesn't help," Mycroft stated drily.
"Not him, but me, Mycroft. You should try it every once in a while. Would help you relax," John grumbled. He once again crouched down next to his friend.
"Sherlock, we're going to give you something for the pain now, so that you can get to your room and get some rest..."
"I don't need rest... brain does," he hissed.
"One thing might come along with the other," the Detective's flatmate tried to assure him, but wasn't convinced of what he said himself.
After Sherlock had felt some relief from the pain that the drugs had finally brought, they moved him into his room and put him to bed. By that time, Sherlock was hardly able to utter a clear thought, his words resembling the confusion of memories that were occupying his mind. His speaking wasn't directed at anyone, rather sounding like an old, demented man's babbling. As none of the persons present had any experience with such a case, they exchanged helpless glances.
"Let's have him rest for a while and then see what we can do," John suggested.
Mycroft's staff were sent away, not without leaving emergency equipment at 221B. John and Mycroft himself sat down in the living-room, waiting. To John's greatest surprise, the personified British Government stood up after a while, busying himself with preparing tea for them. Although he turned up his nose about the state of the flatmates' kitchen, he didn't say anything, just taking the two steaming mugs with him and handing one to John, who had lain down on the sofa to allow his leg some rest.
For a while they just remained silent, only listening to the muffled mumbling coming from Sherlock's room.
"Have you got something like it, too? A mind palace?" John interrupted the silence, asking out of curiosity.
As in many ways the Holmes brothers were much alike despite their desperate attempts to deny this fact, John assumed that Mycroft had created something similar in his mind. However, if they shared the tendency towards megalomania, John could hardly imagine what Mycroft's mental construction would be, since a palace was no special place for him as they had seen during their memorable visit to the Buckingham Palace. John grinned quietly to himself.
"Something of the kind." Mycroft replied distractedly, reading on his phone.
"What is it?" the doctor wanted to know.
"What does it matter, John?" the older Holmes asked, looking up, eyebrows raised.
"Nothing, I was just... asking."
"Surely, the amount of data that is stored in my mind is unimaginably higher than in Sherlock's. You can probably imagine that 'a palace' is not what I would choose." He pronounced the word 'palace' with a clear notion of condescension.
John snorted. "No. Thought so." Mycroft would not give away what his creation was, so he decided to drop the topic.
Daylight was dawning and Mycroft couldn't hide the yawns that he had been trying to stifle for a while any longer. John assumed that he had dozed off a couple of times. The mumbling from Sherlock's room was still audible.
Mycroft stood up, stretching his back. "I will look after him and then I have to leave, I'm afraid. I have tried to delegate most of my affairs, but there are still some left that need my personal attention."
"It's alright, Mycroft. I think I can handle him. If not, I'll call you. – Wait..." John screwed up his face into a fake smile. "I don't have to, do I? You will know anyway, right?"
"It has more than once proven to be useful to keep a careful eye on the two of you, John," the older Holmes countered, returning the plastic smile without showing the faintest hints of a bad conscience; and John reluctantly had to admit that he wasn't all that wrong.
He pursed his lips, sighing, "I'll let you know about any changes."
"Do so. Good-bye, John."
John had apparently fallen asleep again, when he suddenly woke with a start. Something was wrong. The mumbling from Sherlock's room had turned into shouting and occasional yelling, and all of a sudden it was quiet.
Leaning heavily on one of his crutches, John made his way to Sherlock's room as quickly as possible. After a brief knock, he entered.
Sherlock was lying on his bed just as they had put him there. Upon John entering the room, he turned his head, looking at his flatmate with a strangely cold expression.
The sight of it made John hesitate, feeling a little wrong-footed. It seemed ages since he'd seen such a look on his flatmate's face. It was precisely the kind of look he used to give John if he'd interrupted an important experiment – or that he would give Molly if she made a particularly fatuous comment.
"What's wrong?" he asked innocently, as if nothing had happened.
John felt his uneasiness and concern give way to utter confusion before settling at something between relief and anger.
"What's wrong?!" he yelled, shaking his head disbelievingly. "Hmm, let's summarise – oh, where do I start? At the beginning? Yeah. - You were poisoned with a nerve agent – so was I, coincidentally -, almost died from a nosebleed, nearly tried to kill yourself, were shot in the head while I was run over by a car, were in a coma, lost your memories, and finally your mind palace crashed and you ended up lying unconscious on the floor suffering from allodynia before retreating into a state of a dementia-ridden 100-year-old! As you remember things now, don't you think that the simple question of "what's wrong?" is slightly out of place?!"
Having got this out of his system, he took a deep breath and tried to calm himself.
"I was restoring my mind palace." Sherlock stated plainly, obviously still unaware of the emotional turmoil his friend had been and still was going through.
"You... were what?!"
"Restoring my mind palace. Didn't you hear me?" The consulting detective frowned in apparent puzzlement.
"Yes, I heard you shouting. Sherlock! Your brother has moved heaven and earth to find his friend Tobias to help you with your mind palace, and you just tell me you can do it yourself?"
"Has anyone ever talked to me about it, huh?" Sherlock replied, seeming slightly unnerved.
"Actually... – no." John had to admit. Indeed, they had never said a word to Sherlock about it. They had just assumed that with his memory loss, the knowledge of how to perform the memory storage was lost, too. It probably had been, but had re-emerged along his other memories. "But do you have to do it this way? Babbling as if you were insane?"
Sherlock cast his flatmate a surprised look. "Oh, - I wasn't aware..."
"Anyway," John directed the topic onto slippery terrain, leaning to the doorframe, "so you're storing away your memories? What about those from your abduction? Have you banned them to the cellar of your newly created mind palace – or whatever it is now – again?"
"It is still a mind palace. The same as before, actually. And no. You can't just store away or delete the memories of a lifetime within just a few hours, John. It's like moving Harrod's and looking at every single piece before packing it into the removal boxes. It takes time."
"What do you know about Harrod's in the first place?" John mumbled to himself. "You want to talk about it?" he added more loudly.
"No!" was the very quick, almost panicky answer.
John nodded slightly, pursing his lips. "Need anything else? Painkillers for example?"
Sherlock sighed, impatiently. "Thanks, John. Silence is all I need." He directed his gaze towards the door, meaningfully.
The older man cleared his throat. Sherlock being all Sherlock was a tough thing to deal with after all. He felt a little disoriented. He'd been hoping that his friend would regain his memories and his personality, but now it had happened, he wasn't quite sure how he felt. But there was something else too. Sherlock seemed his usual self, but there was something in his eyes that made John hesitate.
Sherlock sighed again and rolled his eyes, making John snap out of his hesitation.
"Yeah, understand. In case you need anything, I'll be next door, trying to catch up on a little sleep. Just shout; I sleep lightly – a leftover from my military days."
Sherlock just looked at him with an unfathomable expression on his face, and John left the room, closing the door behind him and limping back to the sofa. It was good to see that Sherlock was managing his state of mind so well, but the fact that he hadn't stored away or deleted the memories of his abduction so far, worried John.
With a deep sigh, John dropped on the sofa, gingerly rested his leg on a pile of cushions and felt that he was unable to keep his eyes open. He was too exhausted.
Sherlock was lying on his bed, unable to sleep or even close his eyes. Every time he took an attempt at sleeping, pictures emerged in his mind that immediately forced him to open his eyes in order to ban them. He had in fact been restoring his mind palace, starting with the knowledge about the details of each and every item in his room that he could see from his position. He had gone through the entire periodic table and carefully stored away all the information on the elements that he could recall. There had been moments when he hadn't known what was going on in his mind, being washed over by a flood of data that needed to be allocated to a storage place or even to the context they belonged to. Very distressing images of him as a boy came up occasionally, but so far he had managed to push them to the back of his mind. He tried to do the restoration systematically, which was a difficult task, even for him.
On the one hand he knew how to create a new mind palace; he even considered himself a master of this task, however, deep inside him, he was longing for help, for someone who could tell him how to avoid the unwanted memories until he was prepared to deal with them. His pride, though, forbade him to ask for anyone's help. Well, the one person whose help he would have accepted was dead. The other one who would be able to help him, Mycroft, was the last person in the world whom he wanted to entrust with everything he had been trying to hide for years. Plus, it was bloody difficult to acknowledge that Mycroft was not the despicable unapproachable man he had believed he was. In fact, Sherlock's memories revealed a sort of loving and caring brother, a new perception that was difficult for the younger Holmes to cope with. He felt helpless and insecure. How was he supposed to face his brother? What was he supposed to say? Was Mycroft expecting him to say anything at all for he would know that Sherlock was struggling with what he remembered about his brother now? Sherlock didn't know the answers, so it was safer to simply avoid Mycroft until he had found a certain peace of mind, until the recreation of his mind palace was complete.
That was why he pretended to John that everything was ok. John was too caring to just let him be if he found out about his real misery.
With a sound that was meant to
be a sigh rather than the moan it actually came out as, Sherlock let the
memories of that particular, life-changing week, when he had been ten years
old, drift into his consciousness. He would deal with them now to finally get
all the emotional trouble over with.